The Path of Jacques Derrida’s PhilosophyJune 27, 2021
Jacques Derrida is one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. Along with Foucault and Deleuze, he belongs to a special generation of thinkers on the margins of the French academy. His works have influenced and changed our ideas about language, philosophy, aesthetics, painting, literature, communication, ethics and politics.
Derrida gave his first works as a Husserl interpreter, starting with his Master’s Thesis, Le problème de la génèse dans la philosophie de Husserl (The Problem of Formation in Husserl’s Philosophy), written under the direction of Jean Hyppolite in 1953-54. His first work, which made an impact in philosophical circles, was Husserl’s “Introduction to the Origin of Geometry” (1962), which he wrote in his work titled The Origin of Geometry. In this work, Derrida responds to a classic criticism of Husserl’s philosophy, that Husserl ignores the problem of history by contenting himself with investigating static essences. What does it mean for the object of geometry to be “ideal”? While seeking an answer to this question, Derrida points to various tensions and paradoxes within phenomenology.
In 1967, at the age of thirty-seven, Derrida On Writing and Difference, Sound and Phenomenon and Grammatology; He has published three works under the title of Writing and Difference is a compilation that brings together articles written in the last decade on figures in literature and philosophy, such as Emmanuel Levinas, Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Edmund Husserl, Edmond Jabes, Antonin Artaud. On Grammatology contains deconstructions showing that Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s age, that is, modernity, was logos-centred. Sound and Phenomenon is an essay on Husserl phenomenology. This work contains important concepts of Derrida’s philosophy in seed form. This philosophy grew out of phenomenology, marked prominently in terms of Husserl’s and Heidegger’s thought, which was always read with him in France. The philosophical and literary sources with which he relates are very rich: Hegel, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille, Lacan, Mallarmé, Joyce, Kafka, Ponge… The common point of the three works published in 1967 is a philosophical concept called “deconstruction”. is to announce the strategy, the way of philosophizing. At the beginning of his philosophical journey, Derrida distanced himself from existentialism, phenomenology and structuralism. The peculiar side of this distance is revealed in the attempt of the “deconstruction of Western metaphysics”.
Deconstruction has been embraced not only by philosophers but also by almost all social sciences, art disciplines and intellectual circles in a wide spectrum.
It first made an impression in America, and from there spread all over the world, it became a source of inspiration for various deconstruction practices. In the 1980s, fashion was a trend on university campuses, works of literature and philosophy were deconstructed, and with the addition of architects to this trend, works that ignored symmetry began to be designed. Deconstruction has had a significant impact on psychology, literature, cultural studies, linguistics, feminism, sociology, and anthropology. Of course, these disciplines always feed on philosophy, but the reason why deconstruction is particularly interesting is that it breaks the closure of traditional philosophy, opening philosophical reflection to the outside, to the ‘non-philosophical’. This pervasive effect of deconstruction also shows that deconstruction is not unique.
All of these practices may have been inspired by Derrida’s thought, but this does not justify equating them with Derrida’s philosophical thought. Derrida’s corpus includes about fifty books. It is impossible to deal with all of them under a single theme, problematic or category. However, we can argue that the thinker has mostly worked on ethical and political philosophy problems since the eighties, and reconsidered deconstruction in this context. Derrida worked for everyone to have the right to philosophize, he fought against apartheid policies in South Africa, totalitarian regimes, censorship of thought, and France’s immigration policies. But his preference is not to speak directly about political events. He considers the foundations of politics and ethics by considering the originary experiences of these foundations. Thus, he reacts to the political events of his age.
1993’s Ghosts of Marx reveals Derrida’s philosophical relationship with Marx. In this work, Derrida tries to show that there are elements in Marx’s discourse that go beyond metaphysics. It turns out that deconstruction may be at peace with Marx’s own texts, if not with totalitarian communist regimes. In 1994, “The Power of the Law: The Mystical Foundation of Autotity” questions the violence that grounds and sustains the nation-state in the context of Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Critique of Violence”. Thus, deconstruction becomes the deconstruction of institutions. In the context of political philosophy, deconstruction is a reflection, an activity between the law and an idea of justice that cannot be reduced to law. Derrida’s “friendship”, “hospitality”, “mile